After winning his fifth NBA championship, no one would have been surprised if Tim Duncan decided to retire at the age of 38. It might have made sense for Duncan if the San Antonio Spurs were a team that was on its last legs, and this year’s Finals was a farewell to an era. The Spurs are definitely not that.

So, accordingly, Tim Duncan has decided to opt in to the final year of his contract next season, a deal that will pay him approximately $10 million. Yes, it’s a paltry salary figure for the greatest power forward of all time, especially when you consider how effective Duncan still is. His per 36 minutes stats last year (18.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 49 percent shooting) compares favorably to his rookie season in the league in 1997-98 (19.4 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 55 percent shooting). But the price tag makes sense for a player who still wants to push for a last championship.

The Spurs are set to have a very clean cap sheet next summer, when Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Green will be free agents.Win or lose next season, the Spurs could very well bid farewell to both Duncan and Ginobili. Another scenario would see those two return at a further reduced salary, while the team builds around Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter and use the remaining cap space to pursue another star player.

The Spurs are effectively transitioning this era into the next without much disruption. It’s scarier when you realize they might be a player in free agency as soon as next summer. Despite their success, the Spurs have never been a desired destination for free agents. We’ll see whether that changes as the team prepares for life after Duncan.

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